A roasting spit, or simply a spit, is a tool used for roasting large pieces of meat, like whole legs, or even small whole animals over fires or in various types of rotisserie ovens. The roasting spit is a long skewer, which is pushed through the uncooked meat. This skewer is now typically made of metal, especially for use in rotisserie ovens, which often turn the meat mechanically to create even cooking. For outdoor cooking, a roasting spit can be made of wood or other materials that are specially treated so that they will resist burning.
Spits have been used for numerous centuries, and it’s hard to directly trace their origin. The benefit of using them, even without some type of handle or crank to turn the cooking meat, is that you can readjust the roasting spit to more evenly cook meat. This avoids having to attempt to touch very hot meat when you flip it, in order to get it fully cooked, which given the lack of pot holders in the distant past, was a considerable advantage.
Once homes included indoor fireplaces, metal roasting spits became common for roasting joints of meat. Improvements to the spit include adding handles so that meat could be turned with greater ease, and without hurting the hands. Burns to the hands in the pre-antibiotic era were serious business, since they could easily become infected and create a blood infection. As a result, interest in avoiding burns and staying healthy was especially high.
Today, in modern homes, you may find roasting spit varieties of many sizes. Some are made to insert in rotisserie ovens, and others can be fitted on top of a gas or charcoal grill. By following directions, you can get an even roast to different parts of meat. Roasting whole chickens on spits is common, as is roasting joints like a leg of lamb, or beef roasts of various sizes.
You’ll also find traditional roasting spit varieties in a number of cuisines throughout the world. Hawaii’s luau dinners may include spit roasting whole suckling pigs. Sometimes people who camp make use of various roasting spits found in the wild if they are living “off the land.”
You can use relatively young branches that are green as roasting spits to cook fish, rabbits, or pieces of venison. Of course, you had better make sure it’s legal to hunt or fish in the area you plan to stay. If not, bring hot dogs and use either homemade or store-bought spits for wonderful results. Marshmallows over a campfire are similarly made with roasting spits of various types, typically branches.
Kebabs are cooked on a variant of the roasting spit. They are usually on small metal rods that can be turned easily and grilled over open fires, or even in ovens. For those who don’t favor roasting meat for personal reasons, you can use a roasting spit to cook especially large vegetables or make vegetarian kebabs with small spits.